Toni Collette had told her agent that she didn't want to do any more heavy, dark films and only wanted to do comedies, but she loved the Hereditary script so much she couldn't turn it down.
One of the trailers for Hereditary (2018) was accidentally shown at the beginning the PG rated family friendly film Peter Rabbit (2018) in Innaloo, Western Australia. It caused a small panic in the theater with parents fleeing the cinema with their kids. The theater eventually shut the screen off and offered every audience member a complimentary movie pass to apologize for the mistake.
With Hereditary, Ari Aster wanted to "make a film about suffering that took suffering seriously".
Ari Aster wanted to go for scares that were emotionally justified, rather than solely leaning on traditional horror "jump scares."
According to Alex Wolff, the original cut of the film could have easily pushed over 3 hours. The cut footage mostly consists of more family dialogue.
(at around 1h 6 mins) To make the chalkboard write on itself, the special effects team put a magnet in the chalk and put a magnet on the other side of the chalkboard to make the chalk move--it was very difficult to get a small magnet inside the chalk and make it write smoothly.
Toni Collette has called Ari Aster the most prepared director she's ever worked with.
Ari Aster requested that Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro go out to eat in character a few times, and they would sit for up to three hours in silence while Milly wouldn't speak and Alex would try to get her to talk.
Ari Aster liked Utah for the film because he thought its mountains are beautiful and breathtaking, but also menacing and ominous.
Ari Aster wanted any effect that could be done practically to be done that way, instead of in post production.
Ari Aster wrote detailed biographies and backstories for all of the characters before even writing the screenplay.
The producer said that it worked out well that Gabriel Byrne and Alex Wolff had worked together, and Alex and Milly Shapiro knew each other from school, because it made Toni Collette the outsider, which mirrored Annie's character and feelings of alienation within her own family.
For Ari Aster, Hereditary is equally inspired by family dramas (Ordinary People (1980), The Ice Storm (1997), In the Bedroom (2001)) as it is by classic horror films (Rosemary's Baby (1968), Don't Look Now (1973), The Innocents (1961)).
Composer Colin Stetson found inspiration for the score through the sounds of "water and animals while walking around in pitch-black night."
The house was constructed completely on sets on a soundstage in Utah in order to follow Ari Aster's shot list. They needed to be able to remove walls and ceilings in order to shoot the rooms to look exactly like the miniatures.
Ari Aster has 10 screenplays written he hopes to direct over the course of his career.
The special effects team had to learn how to do effects they'd never done before, such as making a candle light itself.
Production designer Grace Yun did research on pagan rituals and cults to prepare for designing the sets.
(at around 14 mins) In Peter's first scene at school, the words "Escaping Fate" is on the chalkboard with the teacher discussing it. This is a reference to Halloween (1978), where the main character discusses the same thing in class. Appropriately, this movie was released the same day as the trailer for Halloween (2018).
Production designer had to work simultaneously with miniaturist to ensure the Graham house and the miniature house were exactly the same.
Many of the cast and crew view the film as a family drama more than a horror movie.
Toni Collette stated that she went to the gym a lot during shooting because she needed to be moving around during such an arduous filming process.
Both Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro attended Professional Children's School, and already knew each other before the film.
Production designer wanted to play with the idea of "sacred geometry"--triangle (Annie, Peter, Charlie), square (introduces Steve's character, home, groundedness), circle (infinite, genesis, Ellen) - all different shapes embedded within the design of the set. If you look closely, the second floor hallway has squares and triangles carved into it.
Ari Aster was heavily influenced by the film The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989).
The movie contains around 85 minutes of music, and Colin Stetson worked 16-hour days at times in order to complete it.
Toni Collette said one of her most memorable moments on set was being doused in water fully clothed for the paint thinner scene.
The primary direction Ari Aster gave composer Colin Stetson for the score was to make it "feel evil."
Gabriel Byrne played Alex Wolff's dad previously in the HBO TV show In Treatment (2008)-- they have joked that every seven years they're going to play father and son.
Ari Aster also designed a 75-page shot list for the cinematography before they even had locations scouted.
Toni Collette (Annie) is 22 years younger than her on-screen husband, Gabriel Byrne.
This was the fourth A24 movie to get a wide release after The Witch (2015), Free Fire (2016) and It Comes at Night (2017).
Alex Wolff said that Gabriel Byrne is one of his favorite people he's ever gotten to work with.
Alex Wolff and Milly Shapiro also had to go out in character and buy Milly a sweatshirt, and Alex had to figure out what kind of sweatshirt she wanted.
Ari Aster has been writing screenplays from a very young age, but eventually realized he would want to be the one to direct what he'd written.
Toni Collette doesn't actually like horror films which is what made her hesitant at first to act in the film. The only reason she accepted her roles in Fright Night (2011) and Krampus (2015) were because she saw them more as black comedies rather than horror films.
Once they found the cemetery surrounded by snow peak mountains, they knew they had found the location for the film.
Ari Aster started building a network of potential collaborators for this film years before the project had been greenlit.
Ari Aster had originally wrote this film to be a straight up family drama, dealing with the grief and loss one experiences with the death of close family members, but Aster saw the potential of turning the film into a horror story and rewrote the script to what it is now. Had this remained a family drama, Midsommar (2019) would have been his first horror film like he initially intended it to be.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
Toni Collette also stars in the Showtime series United States of Tara (2009), featuring Toni as a woman with dissociative identity disorder trying to raise her children, maintain her marriage and discover why she may be suffering from DID.
Alex Wolff is a huge horror movie buff, which is what convinced him to accept his role in the film.
The production designer designed pieces for the house that were meant to be pieces from Annie's previous art collections.
The film premiered on January 21, 2018 at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in the Midnight section.
Director of photography Pawel Pogorzelski was Ari Aster's classmate at the American Film Institute Conservatory.
Colin Stetson, the composer and a saxophonist, has toured with Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, TV on the Radio, Tom Waits.
Ari Aster regularly listened to composer Colin Stetson's earlier music while he was writing the script.
Alex Wolff decided to go method for this film and insisted on being referred to as 'Peter' during production. After filming his very last scene, he symbolically introduced himself to the crew as 'Alex.'
The production designer also used Utah, where the film was shot, as inspiration for the set.
(at around 20 mins) Disassociative Identity Disorder, the mental illness Annie claims her mother suffered from in the group therapy scene, is also the condition diagnosed on the lead subject in the movie Split (2016). The movies have the same producer.
Hereditary's production designer and costume designer also worked on A24's First Reformed (2017).
There would be four or five primary scenes from Annie's life plus a half-dozen others that represented previous events not seen in the movie. The previous ones would give Steve Newburn more freedom design-wise since they would not be tied to actual locations. Hereditary's exteriors would be shot on location in Utah; the interiors would be filmed on stages constructed in Toronto. The miniatures required would include Charlie's schoolroom, Annie's mother's hospice, and a multi-level version of the family house built atop other rotting and collapsing houses. What do you think Sigmund Freud would say about that? While drawing concepts for these dioramas, Steve would communicate with the director by email several times a day and by Skype every other day. The production would supply details for the miniatures, from both the location and studio environments. These would include measurements, multiple angles of props, paint splotches, along with images and samples of wallpaper and hardwood floors. Some of the details would be handcrafted while others would be 3d printed. Most of the miniatures would be built from balsa wood and basswood and other traditional hobby and dollhouse materials. The furniture would be handmade with the exception of the more ornate parts like legs. In fact, thousands of 3d printed parts would be produced. Everything from the table and chair legs to ornate chandeliers and light fixtures. Even the toys in the preschool diorama would be 3d printed. The carpets inside the miniature rooms would not be made of actual carpet, they would be screen-printed. It would take a miniature crew of about ten people two months to build all of the pieces required. Armed with boxes of set dressing for the dioramas, Steve and crew would arrive at the shoot only to discover that they had done their jobs too well. Sometimes the production would ask for some of the details to be removed from the dioramas. Steve recalls being told, "It doesn't need to be that detailed, it's a work in progress." In the end, Steve would be very happy with the way the miniatures were shot and how they were featured so prominently in the film. As for working with Milly Shapiro, Steve would say that the young actor was incredible. And how was it working with Toni Collette? "Tony is Tony, she's amazing the performance of a lifetime" Steve would remember the shoot in a positive way as well. "It was a great experience"
Originally, Steve Newburn had been contacted about providing the makeup effects for Hereditary but after he had read the script, he had an idea. Steve would contact the production and ask, "Hey, what about miniatures? Who's doing that?" In fact, the production had been having trouble finding someone to handle the important miniatures for the film, so Newburn and company would take on that responsibility as well.
The makeup team would supply other severed heads and bodies, some rotted, that appear later in the film. They would also provide the production with dead bird bodies and other assorted animals for the daughter Charlie to behead. She would then carry these trophies around in a box. Also, during the shoot, Steve Newburn and crew would produce minor prosthetics for the day-to-day trauma that the characters would suffer. These would be handed off to the on-set makeup crew led by department head Greg T. Moon and key makeup artist Abigail Spencer.